In the Ring: Boxing On-Screen

In the Ring: Boxing On-Screen

16 Episodes

If boxing hadn’t already existed, cinema would have had to invent it. With its frenetic motion and inherent danger, its astonishing highs and lows, the prizefight was among the very first events ever captured by a motion-picture camera. Rising in tandem with moviemaking in the twentieth century, the boxing film has produced everything from emotionally visceral masterpieces (ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, RAGING BULL) to secretly leftist film noir (CHAMPION, THE SET-UP) and triumphant documentary (WHEN WE WERE KINGS). Selected by critic Christina Newland, this collection of propulsive, stylish, and surprisingly subversive boxing dramas sheds light on the way filmmakers have used the sport to tell stories about class, race, and masculinity. From larger-than-life heroes to the villainous fringes, this collection of cinematic knockouts has it all—palookas and tomato cans, the bums and the champions.

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In the Ring: Boxing On-Screen
  • In the Ring: Boxing On-Screen Teaser

    Episode 1

  • The Ring

    Episode 2

    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock • 1927 • United Kingdom
    Starring Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davis, Ian Hunter

    Alfred Hitchcock’s only original screenplay yielded one of his finest and most visually sophisticated silent films. Against the backdrop of a traveling carnival, an uneasy love triangle for...

  • The Champ

    Episode 3

    Directed by King Vidor • 1931 • United States
    Starring Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Irene Rich

    Wallace Beery won an Academy Award and Jackie Cooper was launched to stardom for their indelible portrayals of a broken-down prizefighter and his devoted son in this deeply moving, unabashedly sentime...

  • Gentleman Jim

    Episode 4

    Directed by Raoul Walsh • 1942 • United States
    Starring Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson

    Director Raoul Walsh meticulously evokes the salty atmosphere of late-nineteenth-century San Francisco in this highly (but engagingly) fictionalized biography of the Irish American bank clerk turned bo...

  • Champion

    Episode 5

    Directed by Mark Robson • 1949 • United States
    Starring Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Maxwell, Arthur Kennedy

    A ferocious, Oscar-nominated Kirk Douglas delivers one of his defining performances as Midge Kelly, a ruthless boxer who steps on anyone and everyone around him in his single-minded pursuit of s...

  • The Harder They Fall

    Episode 6

    Directed by Mark Robson • 1956 • United States
    Starring Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger, Jan Sterling

    Humphrey Bogart made his final screen appearance in this hard-hitting boxing exposé, which stands as one of the greatest films ever made about the sport. He plays an unemployed sports writer who ge...

  • Somebody Up There Likes Me

    Episode 7

    Directed by Robert Wise • 1956 • United States
    Starring Paul Newman, Pier Angeli, Everett Sloane

    Paul Newman rose to stardom for his portrayal of the real-life Rocky Graziano, a man who fought his way up from a life of crime to become middleweight champion of the world. Growing up as the toughes...

  • Rocco and His Brothers

    Episode 8

    Directed by Luchino Visconti • 1960 • Italy
    Starring Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, Renato Salvatori

    Looking for opportunity, five brothers move north with their mother to Milan. There, Simone and Rocco find fame, in the boxing ring, and love, in the same woman. Jealousy mounts, blood is shed, and...

  • Requiem for a Heavyweight

    Episode 9

    Directed by Ralph Nelson • 1962 • United States
    Starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney

    Adapted from Rod Serling’s celebrated teleplay, this fight-film classic stars Anthony Quinn as Mountain Rivera, a veteran heavyweight and near-champion who suddenly finds himself washed up in th...

  • a.k.a. Cassius Clay

    Episode 10

    Directed by Jim Jacobs • 1970 • United States
    Starring Muhammad Ali, Richard Kiley, Malcolm X

    Released in 1970, when Muhammad Ali was in the midst of his exile from boxing for his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War, this vivid documentary draws on a wealth of archival materials to tell t...

  • Hammer

    Episode 11

    Directed by Bruce D. Clark • 1972 • United States
    Starring Fred Williamson, Vonetta McGee, William Smith

    Blaxploitation legend Fred Williamson got his first starring vehicle with this gritty boxing drama. He brings his megawatt charisma to the role of Los Angeles dockworker B. J. Hammer, who cat...

  • Fat City

    Episode 12

    Directed by John Huston • 1972 • United States
    Starring Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell

    John Huston’s adaptation of the cult novel by Leonard Gardner (who also wrote the screenplay) stands as one of the finest and most achingly human films ever made about the desperate, less-than-glamor...

  • Raging Bull

    Episode 13

    Directed by Martin Scorsese • 1980 • United States
    Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty

    With this stunningly visceral portrait of self-destructive machismo, Martin Scorsese created one of the truly great and visionary works of modern cinema. Robert De Niro pours his blood, sweat, a...

  • Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson

    Episode 14

    Directed by Barbara Kopple • 1993 • United States
    Starring Mike Tyson, Cus D’Amato, Don King

    Academy Award–winning documentarian Barbara Kopple directs this provocative portrait of controversial heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Adding to the already significant lore surrounding the boxer, the fi...

  • When We Were Kings

    Episode 15

    Directed by Leon Gast • 1996 • United States
    Starring Muhammad Ali

    In 1974, Leon Gast traveled to Africa to film Zaïre 74, a music festival planned to accompany an unprecedented sports spectacle: the Rumble in the Jungle, in which late-career underdog Muhammad Ali would contend with the younger...

  • Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story

    Episode 16

    Directed by Dan Klores and Ron Berger • 2005 • United States
    Starring Emile Griffith

    Born in the Virgin Islands, Emile Griffith overcame an abusive childhood to become one of the greatest boxers of all time and a world champion in the welterweight, junior middleweight, and middleweight classes. ...